Friday, January 4, 2013

Varia Suit Pauldrons DIY

The Samus Aran DIY Project: Pauldrons

The most important thing you can do before creating a costume is what you are doing RIGHT NOW…research. Samus costumes are so intricate, so delicately sized and detailed, that it is next to impossible to find a quality suit for sale. Thus, creating a realistic Varia Suit to make all your friends 'ooooh' and 'aaaaaaah' means a lot more work than your average Halloween costume (or cosplay). Look at character images off search engines, sketch out the details, and take notice of how everything fits together cohesively. If you can’t draw a straight line, get creative with how to make the shapes and angles. My costume has a total of 19 completed pieces, including: a helmet, 2 shoulder pauldrons, 2 upper arm, 1 arm cannon, 1 lower arm, 1 glove, 1 stomach-to-back piece, 1 vest, 1 chest piece, 1 back jet pack, 1 undies, 2 upper leg, 2 lower leg, and 2 shoes. Each of these pieces is constructed of several additional pieces, and where there aren't add-ons, there are paint techniques. If you haven’t seen my tutorial for the helmet, make sure you check that out too. Again, this entire costume is made with as many recycled/ reused materials as possible, and I spent under $75 to complete the entire suit.

So let’s just get right into it. Here is the Pauldrons tutorial.


2 foam balls (10”+) found in the floral department of your local craft store

Old newspaper (no glossy magazine paper though)

Elmer’s Glue

EVA foam

Bronze acrylic paint

Black acrylic paint

Masking tape

Measuring Tape

4 screws

Large knife (be VERY careful with this/ get adult supervision!!)

Toothpick and string


1. Unwrap foam balls and prop up on solid surface (I used a vase so I could still turn it)

2. Start by drawing a line around the center of the ball (a), then another perpendicular (b). The points where they intersect will give you the center on each side of the ball (c). Measure the distance between the center points and mark the center of that length on each side (d). Now mark the point ½ the distance between points (c) and (d) on both sides to give you point (e). To get nice, even lines around your sphere, place the toothpick in the foam at point (d) and tie one end of the string to a marker and the other to the toothpick. Make sure the marker end of the string is tight at point (e), and then draw a circle. Do this on both sides and we will call them lines (e). Below is a diagram (not perfect but hey, it helps to visualize!) of your template markers.

3. Once you have your template, draw on the shape of the pauldrons how you want them to look. Here is mine:

4. Using the large knife, cut out the area marked with arrows. BE VERY CAREFUL using the knife, I almost cut my finger off…literally blood everywhere. It’s hard to cut through this foam and very messy, so make sure you lay down a drop cloth of some sort for easier cleanup. Anyway, I made flat cuts, fitting the balls onto my shoulder several times to see how to cut them out in order to make them sit comfortably. As you can see, I did this step after the paper mache, but you can really do it either way. I switched the steps only because I accidentally cut into the newspaper and had to repair it, so I figured it might be easier to cut first, mache later.

*HINT: measure between lines (e) for your foam wing cutouts BEFORE you paper mache. Also, if you have more time, you can chisel out lines (e) and (a) to give more dimension and possibly a place for battery powered green LED string lights. I would have done this if I had more time, but the costume was already extremely time-consuming, so I just painted on black lines in the end.

5. Now make some Paper Mache mix out of 1:1 Elmer’s and water. Tear newspaper into strips, and dip into mixture, making sure to squeegee off the excess. Paper Mache the entire surface, including the cut out section. Repeat for at least 2 layers, and be sure to let dry completely between each layer to avoid molding. I did 4 layers.

6. You can cut out your foam pieces while the spheres dry (I initially wrote “while your balls dry” but thought better of it. *Ornery giggles ensued*) I measured between lines (e) earlier and cut an arch to fit (x4). Once your paper mache is hard, tape down the wings where you want them.

7. PAINT! Using the bronze acrylic, cover the entire pauldrons except the cut out, which you will paint black. Add details and DAMAGE!

8. Finally, once all the paint is dry, you may be wondering, HOW DO I ATTACH THESE THINGS?! Once your entire costume is ready and you are getting all the pieces on, screw 2 screws up through the shoulders of your vest (tutorial to come, worry not!!) and into the pauldrons.

That’s it! Hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Stay tuned for the next installment in 
The Samus Aran DIY Project: Leg and Boot Armor.

Varia Suit Arm Cannon DIY

I’m certainly no engineer, but after creating this costume I feel like I could probably build a bridge if it only had to last one night.

A massive undertaking, like this project, requires a little finesse and short-cutting. The problem with always thinking bigger and better is that settling for ‘good’ is just not a very comfortable option. The other issue with innovation is deprivation- of funds, sleep, and time. The original idea was to recreate Samus’ energy-blasting, multi-ballistic attack arm cannon complete with futuristic tech and a mod that actually shoots, lights up, and makes laser sounds. But how to do all this on a major budget and serious time restraints?

The answer: you don’t. Or at least I didn't. I had the plans and schematics all drawn up, costs calculated, etc., when I realized I just don’t have enough time or money. So I had to think smaller. After some self-convincing and an epic pout, I came up with a cheap and fast alternative to the original weapon of mass destruction- I call it the Lite version. But just for shiggles (yep, made that word up…think about it…) I’m going to throw in some of my original ideas in case someone isn't as limited in their efforts and could use a spark of genius idea…you’re welcome.

Arm Cannon Materials:

1 Large packing tube (Mr. Frog had one at his office that was perfect! Check your local shipping supply store)

Xacto Knife (you should already have one of these if you followed my helmet project)

Masking tape

Green plastic cups ($1 for 8 at the dollar store)

A small piece of foam (diameter of the tube opening- you have lots if you are following my other tutorials)

Liquid nails (Use the same tube you got from the helmet project- it doesn't take much)

1 bottle metallic green acrylic paint (cheap stuff works fine)

1 bottle black acrylic paint (you probably already have some from my other tutorials)

1 bottle yellow acrylic paint (ditto)

An old pen (one that is relatively thick and sturdy- look for one that fits sideways inside tube)

A vase light, push-light (what I used), battery-powered LED string lights, or a bracelet glow stick if you just want lights for a few hours (this is for the front of your gun- see steps below to determine which works best for you)

A cheap laser noise-making toy gun (I got mine for $3 from a party supply store after Halloween last year)

*Optional Nerf Ball Blaster gun (get the kind that shoots foam balls, not darts. This was a brilliant idea I wish I could have done)

Step 1:  Obtain large shipping tube.

Step 2: Measure the length from your elbow to fist, add about 8 inches (or whatever feels comfortable) and cut the tube

Step 3: Cut 5x 1’ bands from the remaining excess tube. Fit one band inside the lip of the arm cannon tube, one inside that one, and the other 3 around the opposite outer end (as pictured)

Secure with masking tape and liquid nails. This part can be tricky, so I used rubber bands to keep the rings in place while the glue dried.

Step 4: Cut out any additional details to give the cannon some techy flare. I cut the top and bottom pieces from the excess tube and the curve fit perfectly. It is a little hard to tell in the picture, but you can see the raised detail.

Step 5: Paint!

Here is where you can have fun with some painting techniques. Start with covering the entire canon in metallic green. You can dry brush some black on top to give it a little age and wear. I painted in lines and between the rings to show that there should be dimension in those areas.

I added the circular side details with paint because I didn’t have time to craft in any foam pieces. Hint- If you are planning on cutting out shapes for exterior lighted effects, do so before you paint. I just used paint techniques to give the appearance of lights. You can message me if you have trouble figuring out how to add LEDs.

Step 6: Handle. You might have put your tube on your arm and thought, this looks good, but how do I keep it from sliding off my arm? Solution: A pen. Yes, if you are like me you have 100 random pens that don’t write anymore but you believe anything will eventually come in crandy (crafty + handy= only applicable when you refuse to call yourself a hoarder), so you won’t throw them away. Use a sturdy one- just the casing- and break it/cut it until it fits snugly inside the tube. Hint- it should stay in place when you remove your hand but not dent the tubing. Leave it at a comfortable distance from the end so you can still bend your arm and glue it in with liquid nails. (Sorry, no picture)

Step 7: Fun stuff- sounds and lights!

*Note that if you get the NERF foam ball shooter you will have different steps.

Sounds- use that cheap laser gun and make it fit inside the tube next to the (dry) handle so you can hang on AND pull the trigger. This is actually easier than it sounds. I just sawed off the end, first making sure there were no vital mechanics in the way. Then I used masking tape to keep it in place, and the tube became an excellent acoustic amplifier for the laser noise. Pew Pew!

Lights- For the end of the gun, cut a piece of foam in a circle just slightly bigger than the mouth of the cannon. Seal it with your glue mixture and paint it black. Cut out the bottom of about 2-3 green cups and place them over the clear plastic on the light using masking tape to attach them to the plastic sides. This will give the light a green glow. Hint- you will use the remaining pieces of your green cups for your armor later, so try not to destroy them and save the scraps. If your push light’s plastic is any color besides black, paint that and the masking tape black too. Once dry, attach your light to the foam with liquid nails and let dry completely. You can simply push on the light and place the whole circle into the mouth of the gun, and because you cut the circle larger, it will stay in place during your entire missile-barraging evening and beyond.

That’s it! Here is the completed Samus Aran Arm Cannon:

What do you all think?

Varia Suit Helmet DIY

The Samus Aran DIY Project: Varia Suit Helmet

Yep, this is it- The completed Samus helmet!

I cannot even begin to tell you what a task creating this costume has been. Just getting the design correct, without a pattern and only by looking at character stills, has been difficult enough. But then there’s the added pressure to create the entire project in under $75…Which means recycling and reusing materials around the house. I would not recommend this project if you don’t have about a month of free evenings, the determination of an ox, and the patience to continue working despite some failures.

I have one week. One week left to finish the costume, and I’m mentally smacking myself for taking my time up to this point. I had the helmet and arm cannon done two weeks ago, and have little to show for progress up til this past Monday. I feel like I just went back to college and it’s finals week- staying up until wee hours of the morning, waking up to make a disheveled appearance at work, then returning home to more work and late nights. Mr. Frog thinks I’m crazy, and I’ll admit my sleep deprivation causes me occasional fits of mad-scientist hysterical laughter. I even talk to Samus like she’s a real robot… but I couldn’t be more pleased with the results so far. In my blog, I’m going to show step-by step instructions on how to make this Samus Aran costume DIY style. But first, a little quip about Samus, and why every girl should want to be her for Halloween instead of another version of Sexy-Vinyl-Cop.

Samus Aran is an female bounty hunter originally introduced in the 8-bit video game Metroid by Nintendo (on NES). She fights aliens, Space Pirates, and her arch-nemesis Mother Brain, who happens to be a giant jellyfish. The game was released in the mid 80’s as a cross breed of Super Mario and Legend of Zelda style game play, with influences of the movie ‘Alien’ and underground “metro” design. It only made sense that the main character, Samus Aran, was an android…or a human in a droid suit. It wasn’t until the end of the original Metroid game that Samus is revealed as a female. The ultimate Tomato Surprise! (Look this term up, I promise you will try to use it in a sentence today!)

In a predominately male-centered role in the gaming world, the female Samus became an instant icon. The reveal was empowering to women. Women didn’t have to be characterized by tight leather spandex suits or scantily clad with a husky come-get-me-boys voice to kick some major butt. Instead, Samus is quiet, covered in thick, high-tech body armor, and she is still considered one of the “hottest babes” in the gaming world. That’s why I’d pick Samus over a Naughty School Girl costume every time.

1 baseball batting helmet (got mine at Salvation Army for $5)

1 1/2 ft plastic electrical tubing ($0.89 per foot at your hardware store)

1 empty 2 liter pop bottle (a green one, so Sprite or Mountain Dew)

Liquid Nails glue (you will use about 1 tube for the entire costume)

1 12” x 18” sheet EVA foam (you might as well get several sheets as this is the primary material for your costume)

2 small plastic toy balls (got mine from Dollar Store toy section $0.50/ each, about the size of your palm and make sure they are the hollow inflatables)

1 roll masking tape (pretty much all you need for the entire costume)

1 bottle red and 1 bottle black acrylic paint ($1 each from craft store- just get the cheap stuff)

1 bottle Elmer’s Glue (Get 2 because you need them for the whole costume)

Xacto knife




(scroll down to the bottom for the pictorial step-by-step!)

Step 1: Use jigsaw to cut brim off helmet. Sand edges smooth. Cut out some of the foam inside so it fits comfortably (optional)

Step 2: Draw and cut out foam facial pieces. I glued together 2 layers for added strength and dimension. If you want to do any etchings, use a roller ball pen and press down hard, but don’t puncture the foam. Make sure it will fit onto the helmet.

Step 3: Turn on your stove (or oven) and heat up the foam just until it goes limp and flimsy. This lets you mold it into shapes. Mold the facial part to fit the helmet and with enough space to take the helmet on and off. Try molding it around a bowl or the back of the helmet to achieve this shape.

Step 4: Seal the foam. Use a mixture of 1:1 Elmer’s glue and water. Paint onto foam- both front and back. Allow to dry completely. This turns the foam into a paintable medium.

Step 5: Puncture both plastic/rubber balls and deflate. Cut off excess material or fold under until you get the desired shape and size. Glue to helmet, and use masking tape to help keep it on. (Note: I used the masking tape to create an elongated look off the back of the balls. You can paint over it and it looks just fine.)

Step 6: Use red acrylic paint or mix red and black to achieve desired color and paint your helmet, rubber balls, and (once dried) foam. I used a sponge brush to reduce the appearance of brush strokes. Make sure you paint the backside of the foam too! You may need a few coats to adequately cover the logos and such. Once dried, go ahead and paint in all those little etchings you made on the mouth piece. I waited until it was attached to the helmet and it wasn’t easier.

Step 7: Attach foam to helmet using liquid nails glue. You want some strength in this bond, so use the heavy duty stuff and follow the directions on the package. I can’t tell you how many times I picked up the entire helmet by the front apparatus, so you will be thankful you took this piece of advice. (Also, make sure you leave plenty of room for your head J, and keep in mind you will be attaching a visor, so the foam piece can’t stick out too far from the front of the helmet.)

Step 8: Attach the visor. This has its own step by step… 1) Remove the label from the 2 liter bottle (use a hot water soak for the stubborn stuff). 2) Cut off top and bottom so you have a nice rectangle. 3) Measure how it will fit your helmet and cut to size. 4) This is the tricky part- making something round, well, less round. Tape the cut out to the inside of the helmet. It will try to curl up on you but once you get it fitted correctly you can adjust it as needed.

Step 9: Give your helmet some sweet dmg! (That’s geek-speak for damage). Use black paint, splatter, etc. to get the appearance you just ganked some noobs. (Or, beat up on less advanced players and characters) Mine got ‘naded.

Step 10: Make your breathing tube. Hey, Samus is a human in alien environments after all, she’s got to breathe! Take your electrical tubing and paint it gray, being sure to get into all those little crannies. Or if you got the gray tube, good- for- freaking- you. I got the blue… Twist to the shape of the helmet and glue to the sides with more liquid nails.

What I got

What I should have gotten

That’s it! Mine turned out great! Here it is:

If you have any questions please send me a message. I hope yours turned out great and the directions were easy to follow! Check out the next entry in 
The Samus Aran DIY Project: The Arm Cannon!